Research findings of a number of relevant governmental and non-governmental organisations as well as UN agencies strongly point to the fact that domestic violence has taken an epidemic form in Bangladesh. A large number of women and children fall victim to atrocities committed on them by close relations at home or by strangers outside, which often result in deaths and disfigurement. These issues came up for discussion at a workshop styled 'National Workshop on Domestic Violence Legislation', jointly organised by CARE and ActionAid, Bangladesh.
Legal experts and rights activists deliberated on the critical issues incorporated in the draft 'Domestic Violence Bill' submitted by the Law Commission in 2006 and reiterated the need to monitor the implementation of the bill. We cannot but agree with the experts that there is the need for effective legislation as well as wider people's awareness to help curb the incidence of domestic violence in the country.
A look at the regional statistical figures would reveal that, in general, one in two women in South Asia experience violence of some kind in the hands of their husbands. Specifically, in Bangladesh, between 50 and 60 per cent of women experience some form of domestic violence (ICDDR,B). One Stop Crisis Centre, a Bangladesh-based NGO, reveals that almost 70 per cent of sexual abuse occurs within their own homes. An estimated 200 women are murdered each year in Bangladesh from dowry related violence, says Oxfam Australia. The Sri Lankan Ministry of Child Development and Women's Empowerment says that 60 per cent of women, including 44 per cent pregnant women, become victims of domestic violence. The National Family Health Survey (NFHS -II) of India reveals that as many as 70 per cent of married women in India between the age of 15 and 49 are victims of beating, rape or coerced sex. In Pakistan, around 80 per cent women suffer violence within their homes (Human Rights Commission of Pakistan). According to Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) more than 50 per cent of women are victims of abuse within their homes. And according to a UNICEF report, nearly 275 million children worldwide witness abuse in their everyday life. In South Asia, the estimates range from 40.8 million to 88 million children.
There can be no second thought on the question of curbing violence on women and children - two most vulnerable groups in our society. We therefore feel the call for disseminating information on the nature of domestic violence, right to freedom from violence and available remedies is a timely one that needs to be implemented at the earliest.